Where Did the Modern Fascination With Unorthodox Aspect Ratios Come From?

What has caused the modern resurgence of formats like the Academy Ratio?

If you’ve been to the movies lately, you might’ve noticed something…strange. Like more and more feature films being “boxed in” in terms of the aspect ratios they’re presented in. Aspect ratio is a term referring to the ratio of the width and height of an image. Traditionally, movies are presented in either a wide 2.40:1 aspect ratio or a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that fills up the entire screen.

But in recent years, more movies have been projected in much more unorthodox aspect ratios, ones that emphasize the square shape of the frame. Many of these films, like First Cow or First Reformed, are presented in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio known as the Academy Ratio. Other modern features, such as C’mon C’mon and Spencer, are projected in similar but slightly wider framing of 1.66:1. Still others, like The Lighthouse or The Tragedy of Macbeth, aim for the even narrower aspect ratio of 1.19.1. The specific ratio may vary, but all these films share a common trait of being modern features that rebel against the default aspect ratio choices of 21st-century cinema. The question that remains, though, is why?

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